FYI: No, I was not paid, nor given these freely, nor do I have any connection to Logitech at all.
A short video of the EX Ergo, the hardshell case I picked up for it, and some commentary about using it in different locations.
A few months ago I picked up a new trackball. It’s one of the multitude of pointing devices I use while working. Just to note, here’s the MX Ergo in its normal spot hanging out with my Apple Trackpad and Logitech m331 Silent Mouse.
I picked this up to replace the older trackballs that I used from Logitech previously, the wireless and wired trackballs had lasted me a solid 5+ years at the youngest of the devices. This trackball however has a number of additional features that dramatically increase the usefulness of the device. I’ll enumerate and elaborate on a few’
The scroll wheel doesn’t just scroll, but has a forward and back feature. Just push the wheel to the left or right with your finger and so goes the navigation.
There’s a metal tray that it sits on, and the angle can be changed from zero to 20 degrees. This position can really change the stressors on the upper arm, which makes for easier use during the course of work.
There are the normal right and left buttons, but also two buttons to the left of the left button, and two additional toggle buttons on the lower end of the left right buttons and on the left side near the ball itself. The toggle by the ball actually changes the speed, and thus increasing the accuracy of position of the cursor, it’s a strange but useful effect when manipulating images or such at a pixel level.
This device is also wireless, and has internal batteries that can be charged via the included USB cable. Standard USB connection required for the sensor for the trackball too.
A few shots of the pointing device all pretty and professional. Keep reading below the trackball gallery.
Why a Trackball
One of the issues when working remotely is that space is often constrained. When in a coffee shop, you don’t want to be the asshole who has all their laptop gear spilling over into areas beyond where you sit. Sometimes you may get lucky and the table space may be abundant, but often it is not. Using a trackpad eliminates the excessive space required for a mouse, as a trackpad just stays in the singular spot near the laptop that you set it.
You might ask, ok you have a trackball but why not just use the trackpad? Well sometimes you still can’t use the trackball, because the space is that limited, especially on a transport mode like passenger airlines. Even in first class you’ll be pretty pressed for space. On a Greyhound bus, if you feel like tempting madness, you have even less space than that and no first class to speak of! In these cases, the trackpad is all you can muster for use. But in cases where you have even a little space, the trackball can come out for use.
Why a secondary pointing device? What makes a trackball so great besides the minimal space it uses? A few things make a trackball more bad ass than most other options. For one, the movement can be more precise, with less training. One can train their thumb movement – or fingers if you want to use it that way – in a way that the arm movement used for a mouse just can’t replicate. Some may say, “oh but just use only your hand for the mouse”, well ok except that defeats the immediate ease of access for a mouse. The core notion here, is you can do this if you want to. Thus, you have reduced space use, reduced physical movement for yourself, you can increase precision, and with this particular trackball, you’ve even got macros and other programmable options for the button array that enhances the use of tools like Photoshop where that precision is a requirement for effective use!
For more reasons, more coverage of the hardshell case, check out my post on Transit Sleuth “Traveling Trackball, AKA “GSD Better!”” speaking solely to the traveling use of the trackball and the hardshell case.
All in all, a great device. Do I recommend it? Well, you’ll have to watch the video to see. 👍🏻
I picked up a Logitech keyboard recently, the MK850 with mouse combo. It was on sale for 80% off, which ran me a mighty $20 bucks. I needed a new keyboard as my Apple keyboard I’ve been using just really doesn’t cut it for a Linux machine. I wanted the function keys and placement of the extra alt, ctrl, and related keys to be in a more traditional placement. This keyboard is a win. However…
My first observation as I plugged it in to try out, was my attempt to turn up the music, turned into a going to sleep phase for the computer. A few seconds and it was entirely off. This is a full on computer, not a laptop, so I don’t need it to be going to sleep ever. It either needs to be on, completely, or off completely. Let me show you, this key, right here is a damned curse!
The F11 key, right beside the sound up and down function keys, is the sleep and lock key. Completely unacceptable location. I went into emergency mode on this matter.
A little research and I went full off mode on sleep, hibernate, and suspend! The commands are as follows.
gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power button-hibernate "nothing"
gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power button-sleep "nothing"
gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power button-suspend "nothing"
Now, if you want those back on however, the commands are specific to the function, as shown below.
gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power button-hibernate "hibernate"
gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power button-sleep "hibernate"
gsettings set org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.power button-suspend "suspend"
Ok, whew. Errr well, maybe not.
I rebooted and that didn’t actually take effect. I did a little more research and found dconf-tools. So I installed that.
sudo apt-get install dconf-tools
Opened up dconf and navigated toorggnomesettings-daemonplugins and then power.
This editor then showed me what I had technically just set. So that was confirmed, but got me no where. Onward to troubleshooting.
Next research led me to this option. But then I couldn’t actually get the command to pair to it as it seems the fn or function key plus the F11 key doesn’t actually show up when setting the shortcut keys. Thoughts? If you’ve got any ideas I’m out of ideas for now, do comment or tweet @Adron.
On with the observations.
Alright, with that fixed I could refocus on the plusses of the keyboard. It’s paired very nicely with the silent mouse, similar to the mouse I reviewed a while back, the M331 Silent Mouse. The keyboard is also extremely silent, with barely any utterance of noise coming from the keyboard. If you like the loud mechanical style, this is not your keyboard. If you want to focus on music or something else while typing then, this is your keyboard.
With that, my quick review and emergency is done. This might be helpful so typed it up but now it’s time to get back to work on some Go prototyping and some solid tunes from Eastern High. For reference, here’s one of their good ones.
Yesterday I received my X1 Carbon Touch from Amazon. First part of this whole adventure is that I sent it to my old address in one part of town so that led to a little sleuth action to track it down. After a short bike ride up the street I arrived and the office staff had my X1 Carbon. Whew, disaster averted.
I went down to Ace Hotel were one of the local Stumptown locations is to open it up and see what I was in store for. Nothing like a good macchiato while I unpackaged the new machine. When I arrived I ran into Nathan Aschbacher and Eric Redmond. Two of my fellow Basho comrades. We all grabbed coffee and headed up to the roost for some hacking and conversation.
Unpacking the Lenovo X1 Carbon is a straight forward process. A simple box, no elegance, just a box with some labels and logos on it. Pulling the laptop out of the box, still just the bare minimum. No bells, no whistles, even the documentation is a 2-3 page pamphlet. Personally, I’m totally cool with this approach. I find Apple’s packaging to be an experience of sorts, however extensively wasteful.
One of the applications I found not available for Windows 8 was a native HipChat client. This actually makes sense, since most of their customers are likely using Linux or OS-X. It really shows how Windows has seriously lost the edge with developers.
Nathan and Eric both give a feel to see how light and strong the laptop is. Nobody actually threw the laptop, but we all wanted to, just to see how it would hold up. Maybe with somebody else’s hard earned Lenovo purchase. 😉
After Nathan and Eric threaten the poor laptop, I set her down and try and get her booted up. First thing I notice, it doesn’t start. I’m puzzled? Why doesn’t it start? I pick at my PC Tech experience and think, “oh yeah, probably gotta do something stupid an unintuitive like plug it in for some magically arbitrary amount of time first”.
So I plug it in and try again. A small light around the power button, kind of a halo, lights up and immediately I get the happiness. The machine is coming to life. A bright Lenovo logo pops on the screen with the notorious Windows 8 swirly working image below.
Windows 8 then shifts into a preparing windows workflow which basically means you fill out a few things and it does something to the OS to make it ready to run. I sit through a solid 7-10 minutes of these screens, these fluctuating colors. It’s rad, in a psychedelic waste of time kind of way. However, I’ll admit, my Mac Book Air is sitting beside me running just fine that I’m using to do work while I wait for all this process to finish. I’m no amateur at loading operating systems, I come prepared. 😉
A Problem Arises
I relocate to Bailey’s Taproom after setting up some basic things and installing Visual Studio 2012 on the machine. While working through updates and installing patches my track pointer (the little red button thingy in the middle of the keyboard, that Lenovo is famous for) stops working.
I toy around with the settings and see why the track pointer is shadowed out in the settings. I battle with Windows 8 trying to find the easiest way into the settings and out of the settings and to the desktop and to the start screen and back and forth. It’s somewhat tumultuous but in the end it’s helping me get used to the new system and where everything is. But still, I’ve no idea why the track pointer thingy doesn’t work. I consult the great Google.
Apparently the drivers that it ships with are the suck. I get pointed to this video by Jesse Anderson.
After I get the drivers installed, everything is working flawlessly again. Onward!
Flakiness o’ Windows 8
As I’m working on Windows 8 setting up some of the cool applications for the start menu (or whatever the metro dealio is called now) I get a really flaky behavior. This is the kind of behavior that screams “we don’t really pay attention to usability” or maybe it screams “we’ve no idea what we shipped” or maybe it’s just a simple example of “oh shit we shipped that stupid user experience“. Whatever the case is, this is it…
Yup, on a laptop with a HARDWARE LAPTOP ATTACHED Windows 8 is showing me the keyboard. WTF kind of pure idiocy of a UX is this? My mind is blown. After years of the iPad having this problem figured out (and Apple doesn’t even sell keyboards themselves). When you have a HARDWARE keyboard NEVER show anybody the stupid SOFTWARE keyboard EVER. Seriously, this has to be one of the dumbest UX situations that I’ve seen in ages. This is a total failure of logical flow. Note also, this screen doesn’t fold all the way around, this is a laptop pure and simple, not in any way a tablet. But there’s the SOFTWARE keyboard that one should only see on a tablet! Oh well, it aint the end of the world, it’s just DUMB.
I get everything else setup, zonk for the night after working through all the software installations and patches. All is right. All is cool.
Loading Ubuntu Linux
The next morning I rise early and get to working on the next phase of my installation. I don’t, by any means, intend to use Windows 8 all the time on this machine. I want to have a dual boot of Ubuntu and Windows 8 on this laptop so that I can have every OS (OS-X, Windows 8 and Ubuntu) running natively on at least one machine that I have.
I shut down the computer after getting all of these things installed. Windows 8 was finally fully patched, Ubuntu was installed and running with all patches too. The X1 seemed to hang on the shutdown. So I held down the power button for about 8 seconds to hard reboot the machine. Thinking that it would startup no problem at a later time I packed it in my messenger bag and headed off to a meeting I had scheduled. I arrived at the meeting and went to start the laptop again.
So I tried to hold the button down for 7 seconds to start it back up.
I packed it back up and returned to a place I could plug it in and try to start it. I swung into Backspace and found an electrical jack. Plugged in, counted a few seconds just for good luck. I then held down the power button for 8 seconds to see if it would start plugged in.
(Click for large image)
I then sporadically pressed the button. I then used morse code to spell S.O.S. on the power button.
I resigned myself to now owning a large paper weight. Albeit a much lighter paper weight than what laptops traditionally weighed. My X1 Carbon Touch was dead. I called tech support.
First thing that happens, I navigate through support quickly. The automated voice tells me I am now being connected to Lenovo Support in Atlanta, Georgia. At this point I was impressed. I’m getting to speak to someone in the country where I’ve bought the machine. That is cool.
I get connected to Tom in support. I fill him in on my sitrep. We walk through some basic troubleshooting. Such as the “pin in the battery reset hole” trick“.
Tom wastes no time as I’ve already laid out everything I have in this blog entry. He declares it dead and gets a box on its way to me for returning it to Lenovo. With a promised 7 day return after I ship it to them. Well hot damn, my laptop is dead by I’m stoked to have support like this. I don’t recall support this good since the late 90s!!